Bernie pic

Bernie pic

Friday, 13 December 2013

Get a lawyer, a real Godot one

A-G Brandis seeks 
legal advice in fiction

We Australian taxpayers kindly bought attorney-general George Brandis a copy of the Samuel Beckett play Waiting for Godot for the bookshelf of his Canberra office.
(That’s Brandis’s office. Godot has not been seen in the national capital for a long time; some say never.)

It worked this way. Brandis, between January and June 2013,   suggested Godot was an indispensable addition to his departmental literature and those who approve such an acquisition on taxpayers’ behalf concurred.

Normally I would be churlish about such a purchase and suggest Brandis would be reading above his intellectual weight. But Godot is a significant totem in the plot of my novel Iraqi Icicle. Instead of poking fun I look forward to seeing my novel among the attorney-general’s considerable library haul for July to December, 2013.
In all honesty, I cannot take a cheap shot at Brandis and demand he explains the relevance of his purchase. In Godot lies a deep legal conundrum.
It is where Vladimir raises the question of the reliability of eye witnesses, specifically in the Biblical account of the Crucifixion.
‘Of the four Evangelists only one speaks of a thief being saved. The four of them were there –or thereabouts– and only one speaks of a thief being saved.
…Of the other three, two don't mention any thieves at all and the third says that both of them abused him.’
Why do Christians accept the evidence of one of the four eye-witnesses as fact to create a moral principle of “the good thief” which I must add does not refer to efficacy in his profession. He was being crucified, after all. In Godot, Estragon says it is because “people are bloody ignorant apes”. I am unsure whether Estragon’s Law will hold up as a legal principle.
You will notice Vladimir is not concerned with the jurisprudence of one thief being saved and the other damned.
For that question, we taxpayers need to buy the attorney-general a copy of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion (only $3.59 in hardback from Amazon)

‘ALDRED DOOLITTLE: I'm one of the undeserving poor: that's what I am. If there's anything going, and I put in for a bit of it, it's always the same story: 'You're undeserving; so you can't have it.' But my needs is as great as the most deserving widow…I don't need less than a deserving man: I need more. I don't eat less hearty than him; and I drink a lot more. I want a bit of amusement, ‘cause I'm a thinking man. I want cheerfulness and a song and a band when I feel low.’ 

As attorney-general, Brandis may be called on to decide whether to prosecute or save a good thief, so the Beckett and Shaw texts could prove inspired spending of public money.
Earlier this year, Mr Brandis repaid $1700 in public funds he had used to attend the wedding of right-wing shock-jock Michael Smith who not only speaks for the legendary bloody-minded “Everyman”, but even has his name. No further inquiry was made into Brandis’s initial claim which he still insisted he was entitled to. He was returning the money to put to bed ''uncertainty (about his entitlement) in favour of the taxpayer''.  

In law, words mean what they say: Brandis was doing us taxpayers a favor for not claiming public funds to go to a private wedding. The attorney-general was “the good uncertain”.
The bad uncertain was Peter Slipper who had defected from the conservative party known from some historical anomaly as the Liberal Party. Brandis remains in the now-governing Liberal Party.
Slipper was bribed by the then Labor Party government with the cushy chair as Speaker of the House.
He was caught spending lots of public bugs-bunny joyriding in cabs.  Slipper had the mirror excuse to Brandis of  uncertainty over the use of public payments for cab dockets. Like Brandis, he paid back the money. There the comparison ends as Slipper is before the courts for alleged abuse of public entitlements.
Brandis is the good uncertain and Slipper the bad uncertain. You wouldn’t read about it. Or maybe you would – in Brandis’s office.
It is all a misunderstanding when an attorney-general is caught with his hand in someone else’s cookie jar.

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